1 Samuel 2:12-26
Eli’s Wicked Sons
Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. Now it was the practice of the priests with the people that whenever anyone offered a sacrifice and while the meat was being boiled, the servant of the priest would come with a three- pronged fork in his hand. He would plunge it into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot, and the priest would take for himself whatever the fork brought up. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the servant of the priest would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”
If the man said to him, “Let the fat be burned up first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would then answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”
This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.
But Samuel was ministering before the Lord –a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the Lord’s people. If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.
And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.
This is a tale of two parents. On one side we have the high priest, Eli, and his sons. On the other side we have Hannah, a barren woman finally given a child from the Lord after many years. For Hannah, she had prayed for a son for so long and it was actually the blessing of Eli that God used to open her womb that Hannah and her husband might have a child. In her prayer, Hannah promised to give the child to the Lord if the Lord would grant her a baby boy. The Lord was faithful…and so was Hannah.
When the boy was weaned, she brought him to Eli, the High Priest, and presented the boy to him forever. Can you imagine? In a culture where the value of a woman was found in her ability to have children, finally Hannah has a child and then she gives up the child. She left him at the temple to be raised and taught by the High Priest of God. I think to myself how difficult this must have been for Hannah. But I also wonder what it was like for her child, Samuel. Perhaps, when Samuel was young, he did not fully understand what was happening, but each year, Hannah travelled to the Temple to see him giving him a new ephod to wear. Samuel was a young boy then a teenager. This is just me, but I would imagine that he did not want to be living in the temple with an old man who was not even his father. I’m sure that Eli was good to him, but didn’t he want to go play with the neighbor’s kids? Did he want to play football and video games like most kids? Didn’t he want to see his Mom and Dad? And then after Hannah had more children, did Samuel not sit and cry at night because he missed them and wanted to be with them so badly? But for Hannah, giving Samuel to the Lord was her way of glorifying God and thanking God for the miracle He did for her. Her main priority was for the Lord to be glorified.
At the same time, Eli’s sons who are older and also priests were doing things that were despicable to the Lord. By the ordinance of the Lord, the priest was to receive a portion of the sacrifices however, it was to be after the fat portions were offered to the Lord. The remaining meat would be boiled and the priest would have some and the one who offered the sacrifice would have some. But Eli’s sons would take the best portion of the meat before it was offered to the Lord. They wanted the tastiest part which probably included some fat portions for flavor even though this part was supposed to go to the Lord. They were selfish, stealing from the Lord. We see in this passage that Eli rebukes them, but Eli should have removed them from their position altogether. The Lord would later say to Eli, “You have honored your sons more than you have honored me.” Eli’s sons lost the favor of God and died. The Lord allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be taken by the Philistines and upon hearing this news, Eli fell off his chair and died.
Hannah’s son became a great leader and prophet of Israel. Hannah was blessed with more children. Eli’s sons died a disgraceful death and under the leadership of Eli, the Ark of the Covenant was stolen from Israel. For Hannah, she endured hardship and taught her son to do the same for the glory and honor of the Lord. And they were blessed. Eli did not want to go through the difficulty of removing his sons so we tolerated their sin. He knew there might be a big blowup if he took action. He allowed the Lord to be dishonored rather than dealing with his children simply because it was easier on him and easier on his sons.
To discipline our children is unpleasant, no doubt. We do not enjoy the confrontations no matter if our child is two or sixteen. It’s easier more often than not to let things go. We don’t deal with their behavior and their behavior continues. Without discipline, our children learn to do whatever their heart desires and because of our sinful nature, these desires not only dishonor the Lord, they bring destruction to our children. As parents, our main goal is to honor the Lord. He gave us these wonderful gifts from Heaven and we should do everything we can to make sure our lives and the lives of our children glorify the God who gave them.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.